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Systems Engineering, Ph.D.

Grant Work Completed per Year in Systems Engineering
Core Faculty Members
Student to Faculty Ratio
Investment in research in FY21
Degree Overview Open Accordion
Online Ph.D. in Systems Engineering

Online Ph.D. in Systems Engineering

A multi-disciplinary approach to solving complex problems

As technological advancements and the rate of innovation continue to accelerate, a systems approach is required to address today's multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary challenges.

A complex system consists of diverse and individual factors, or components, that are interdependent and add up to more than the sum of its parts. That complexity drives the need for systems engineering as a formal discipline, providing both a framework and a rigorous theoretical underpinning for the design and management of challenges across industries. To solve problems within complex systems, engineers must utilize tools from a variety of fields including control systems, operations research, reliability and performance engineering, risk analysis, software engineering, and networking and security.

The development of systematic design and management processes, while integrating appropriate tools and requirements from all of the above disciplines, is at the heart of systems engineering. The online Ph.D. in systems engineering prepares students to work with multi-disciplinary teams and methods to solve complex problems in any industry.

A Ph.D. program for professionals

The online Ph.D. in systems engineering is a competitive program for working professionals, offering a flexible study format and applicable material. Students are encouraged to problem-solve current issues faced by their employers as part of their studies.

Designed for senior management and top-level executives, CSU's highly selective online systems engineering Ph.D. program only accepts a handful of students each semester to maintain the integrity and quality of the student experience.

Faculty expertise and applied research

Be a part of a community of engineers exploring the frontier of modern research, pushing the boundaries in the field of systems engineering. The online Ph.D. prepares students to become future leaders in systems engineering. As Ph.D.-level scientists in both academia and industry, you will contribute original research to the field throughout your coursework, driving advancements and leading to improvements in your area of focus for your company and the discipline as a whole.

Study with faculty who bring decades of experience in applying academic research to real-world situations, who are conducting groundbreaking research of their own that will help write the textbooks of tomorrow.

Learn from faculty with expertise in:

  • Aerospace and Defense (A&D), including research, system and technology development, and operations;
  • Systems architecture and engineering with emphasis on information- and software-intensive systems and enterprises;
  • Technical management, production, manufacturing, lean engineering, life cycle management, test and analysis, transitioning technology into manufacturing; and
  • Design and analysis of aerospace, energy, and automotive systems, design optimization, and environmental assessment.

Visit the Systems Engineering website to learn more about the faculty associated with the systems engineering Ph.D. program, and their research specializations.

What you will learn in the online Ph.D. in systems engineering program

In consultation with your advisory committee, you'll individually structure the systems engineering graduate program to fit your academic and research goals. Your Ph.D. experience culminates in a dissertation* which serves to heighten research and knowledge in your area of interest, and demonstrates a solid foundation of systems engineering theory and practice, as well as a multi-disciplinary understanding of systems concepts.

Topics of study include:

  • Information technology and project management
  • Systems engineering processes
  • Engineering risk analysis
  • Systems engineering architecture
  • Simulation modeling and experimentation
  • Dynamics of complex engineering systems

Review the Ph.D. curriculum.

The online Ph.D. in systems engineering offers the advantage of synchronous or asynchronous delivery, allowing you the flexibility to study when and where it works best for your situation, with options to:

  • Watch and interact online while the lecture is happening live on campus.
  • Watch a recorded version online after work or on the weekend.

*Dissertation does not require a campus visit.

Industries with opportunities for systems engineers

The online systems engineering Ph.D. prepares students for a wide-variety of careers in many industries, including, but not limited to:

  • Research and development
  • Systems engineering and optimization
  • Healthcare
  • Government/Military
  • Aerospace
  • Clean energy
  • Environment
  • Automotive
Requirements and Curriculum Open Accordion

The volume of applicants far exceeds the number of students that can be accepted into this program. The highly selective nature of the program maintains the integrity and quality of the student experience. There are two options for students pursing the Ph.D. in systems engineering. The 72-credit program is for students who do not already have a Master of Science degree. The alternate 42-credit program option is for students who do already have an applicable master's degree of at least 30 credits.


A minimum of 72 credits must be completed.

Ph.D. – 42 credits needed
(Students with applicable master level degree earned with at least 30 credits)

  • 18 course credits required
  • Dissertation (24 cr.)

Ph.D. – 72 credits needed
(no applicable master level degree earned)

  • 39 course credits required
  • Dissertation (33 cr.)

Three credit hours of SYSE 795 (Independent Study) may be used towards the total of dissertation credits OR as one 3–credit course. If you have had your Ph.D. research, which was performed while enrolled at CSU, accepted for publication (completely or with minor revisions) in at least two peer–reviewed journal or conference proceedings, then you may be eligible for Independent Study credit. You must be first author on at least one of the papers accepted. Please work with your faculty advisor when planning publications to meet this requirement. To register for these credits, you will complete an SYSE 795 Independent Study form, with faculty advisor approval, and submit to the Systems Engineering Program.

Advising and Faculty Mentor

All Ph.D. candidates are expected to create a formal advising arrangement with a faculty advisor before joining the Ph.D. program to assist with advising, course selection, and research projects. All Ph.D. students are considered provisional until they complete a qualifying process and preliminary examination. For the qualifying process, each candidate must pass all core courses with a grade "B" or higher; B- and below will not be accepted. The preliminary exam is not a standard written or oral exam, rather it is an opportunity for the student's Ph.D. committee to examine the student's planned research activity and determine their knowledge of fundamental principles that specifically apply to the planned research. To explore options for a faculty advisor, visit the faculty list.


Course delivery options allow you to study when and where it works best for you, whether that be streaming the lecture from your computer while it's happening live on campus or watching a recorded version at a time more convenient for you.

Systems Engineering Core Courses

  • Students with applicable master-level degree should select 18 credits
  • Students without applicable master-level degree should select 21 credits


Students with applicable master level degree

No electives permitted.

Students without applicable master level degree

Select 18 credits from a list of suggested electives. The list is not exhaustive. If you find a graduate-level technical course that pertains to your professional goals and/or the systems engineering field, please contact the SE program to check if it may apply as an elective.

Please email for questions pertaining to coursework or advising.


Students with applicable master level degree

24 credits

Students without applicable master level degree

33 credits

  • SYSE 799A – Dissertation (1-18 cr.)

    Dissertation credits can be completed throughout multiple semesters. Select 18 credits with approval by student's advisory committee.

Course Descriptions Open Accordion
SYSE 501 – Foundations of Systems Engineering

The Foundations of Systems Engineering course is an introductory overview of the systems engineering perspective and is presented to set the conceptual and practical framework of the entire systems engineering graduate program. The course covers the foundational components of systems engineering, the concept development stage every viable system must go through, and the process steps of the engineering development stage. Several issues related to post-development and special topics areas are presented.

SYSE 530 – Overview of Systems Engineering Processes

This course helps students develop a conceptual understanding of the systems engineering life-cycle process and familiarity with analysis techniques used in that process. It also introduces concepts of reliability and robustness, and rigorous tools for analysis and design with them in mind. The course utilizes real-world experience and case studies of working with a system through all phases of the system design process.

SYSE 532 – Dynamics of Complex Systems

This course deals with understanding the higher-level behavior and issues that emerge from interaction between components in complex socio-technical systems. The course emphasizes system thinking, dynamic cause and effect relationships, and the higher-level emergent behavior that results from the interaction of many smaller effects that are individually well understood, but more difficult to grasp at a higher level.

SYSE 567 – Systems Engineering Architecture

Observation/classification of systems architecture. Systems architecture principles and critical evaluation through design studies.

SYSE 602 – Systems Requirements Engineering

Introduction to the rigorous requirements process within systems engineering, including system requirements analysis, requirements decomposition, allocation, tracking, verification, and validation.

ENGR 502 – Engineering Project and Program Management

Engineering program management fundamentals, program planning and control strategies, risk assessment, work breakdown structures and costing options.

ENGR 525 – Intellectual Property and Invention Systems

This course focuses on the appropriate application of “patterns for patenting” together with intuition, inspiration, and cross-disciplinary connecting. De-mystify “inventing” as applied to science, engineering and technology.

ENGR 531 – Engineering Risk Analysis

Successful engineering project management includes estimation and proactive risk identification and development of mitigation techniques. System uncertainty is reduced when project risks are identified, quantified, and mitigation strategies implemented. Tools, techniques, and methodologies used by successful project managers will be examined. You can participate via live web conferencing or view the recorded session at your convenience. In addition, you have the option to attend on-campus sections in Fort Collins during the fall semester.

ENGR 565 – Electrical Power Engineering

Analysis of power systems in terms of current, voltage, and active/reactive power; introduction of computer-aided tools for power systems.

ENGR 570 – Coupled Electromechanical Systems

Coupled electrical and mechanical systems and the analysis of energy transfer between these systems. Analysis of field energy and the relationship between electrical, mechanical and electromagnetic forces. Analysis and design of linear motors, servo-motors, DC and motors are presented. Other topics include inductively coupled charging circuits and vibrational modes that can arise between coupled electrical and mechanical systems. Graduate standing.

MECH 513 – Simulation Modeling and Experimentation

This course will introduce fundamental concepts of integrated modeling, simulation, and experimentation as a component of the systems engineering process. You will learn practical processes for improving the defensibility, cost and capabilities of your simulations. This course places emphases on verification and validation of computational models, on quantification and propagation of uncertainty, on multi-disciplinary analysis and optimization, and on synthesis and decision making. We will use tools including MATLAB, Excel, ModelCenter, Simulink and SimEvents to model in a variety of engineering applications and domains. With semi-weekly homework and mid-term and final projects, this course will build engineering students' capabilities to perform scientific and engineering computing for the purposes of design, research and decision support.

ECE 508 – Introduction to Power System Markets

This course provides an introduction to the structure and techniques (tools) of market operations in deregulated electric power systems. The emphasis of the course is on topics related to: participants in electric power markets; system security; investments in generation and transmission; auctions; ancillary services; and congestion management.

ECE 566 – Energy Conversion for Electrical Power Systems

Energy conversion; fuel cell, battery storage, solar-photovoltaic, wind energy and traditional rotating-magnetic-field based machines.

ECE 622 – Energy Networks and Power Distribution Grids

Energy networks: generation, storage, consumers. Systems approach to analysis of distribution networks and transition to intelligent grid systems.

CIS 600 – Information Technology and Project Management

Course topics include balancing project stakeholder requirements for scope, time, cost, quality, risk, and human factors. The course emphasizes the Project Management Institute's (PMI)® body of knowledge and considers PMP®/CAPM® professional certifications. You can participate via live web conferencing or view the recorded session at your convenience. In addition, online students may occasionally attend on-campus classes in Fort Collins, but we ask that you let us know ahead of time to ensure your attendance isn't during an exam or other prohibitive activity.

CIS 610 – Software Development Methodology

This course covers methods for all phases of software development focusing on the establishment of economical software that is reliable and cross platform compatible. You can participate via live web conferencing or view the recorded session at your convenience. I semester.

CIS 670 – Advanced IT Project Management

In this class, an applied examination of project management is conducted with an emphasis on preparing for and completing PMI certification. The focus is on the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). This course aims to prepare you to test for either Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® or Project Management Professional (PMP)®.

PMI, PMP, CAPM, and PMBOK are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

Hear from Our Students Open Accordion

Jim Scheibmeir

“I was looking for a credible university with flexibility to study for my Ph.D. remotely. CSU Online provided both. I learned to make data driven decisions and remove my own bias in my thinking. I gained confidence, skills, enjoyment, and growth.”

Trevor A.

“I deal with systems engineering daily at my job - building systems from conception to operation. I had tunnel vision to solving engineering problems. This program taught me creative ways to solve problems. I learned about fields that I had little experience in such as digital twinning. My performance and motivation have improved because of this program.”

How to Apply Open Accordion

The highly selective nature of this program is intentional and designed to maintain the integrity and quality of the student experience. Before applying to the degree program, it is strongly recommended that you contact us well in advance of the application deadline to understand and fulfill all requirements.

Application Deadlines

Full consideration is given to applicants who meet the given deadline. Applications received after the deadline will be reviewed as space within the program allows.

Fall semester July 1
Spring semester November 1

1Review Admission Requirements

Download the complete Systems Engineering Application Information Packet prior to starting the application process. This packet provides detailed information regarding CSU's Systems Engineering graduate programs, minimum application qualifications, criteria for admission, and more.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

  • B.S. degree from a regionally accredited institution in engineering, mathematics, or a science discipline with a GPA of 3.0 or greater
  • Basic Statistics
  • Calculus I

Note that meeting the minimum department standards does not ensure admission to the program. Admission to Colorado State University graduate programs is based on a number of factors, including prior academic and professional experience and the personal statement.

Start your application online and upload materials directly into the online system. You can save your progress and return any time. We recommend starting the application process at least 1 month before the deadline to ensure you submit all required materials on time.

Apply Now

2 Secure a Faculty Advisor

A faculty advisor must be secured before you begin your application. Please download and reference the Systems Engineering Application Information Packet for details.

3 Prepare Application Materials

Prepare the materials below and upload when you apply online.

  • Three letters of recommendation
    Three professional recommendations are required. We recommend letters come from faculty, supervisors, etc. who can accurately speak to your skills. You will provide information about your recommenders in the online application. CSU will contact them with instructions and a link to a secure form they will submit on your behalf.
  • Resume
    Outline your professional employment, collegiate work, and any publications, exhibitions, service activities, prizes, and awards.
  • Statement of purpose
    (2 pages MAXIMUM) This is meant to address the Systems Engineering Admissions Committee and why you would be a good fit for the program. This is different from the Research Interest Summary you will compile, but some of the same information may be used. Topics may include, but are not limited to:
    • Your relevant professional/academic background and skills
    • Why you are interested in Systems Engineering — provide specific areas of interest and application
    • Why you are interested in CSU's program and what you can contribute to CSU

4 Complete Online Application

Complete the online graduate application and pay the nonrefundable application processing fee (payable online). As soon as you have completed the required information, please submit your application. Your application will not be reviewed until it is complete and all required materials have been received.

  • Select "Systems Engineering (Ph.D.) – Distance" when choosing the program of study

5 Request Transcripts

Request one official transcript of all collegiate work completed from all institutions attended. Transcripts from Colorado State University are not required. Transcripts must be received directly from the originating institution to be considered official.

Electronic (preferred):
Digital Transcripts must be submitted by the originating institution using a secure service such as parchment, eScrip-Safe, the National Student Clearinghouse, or e-Quals. Transcripts received via emails are considered unofficial.

Use institution code 4075 for Colorado State University or if the secure service requires an email address.

Mail (if necessary)
Graduate Admissions
Colorado State University – Office of Admissions
1062 Campus Delivery
Fort Collins, CO 80523-1062

6 FAQs

Find answers to frequently asked questions.

Check Your Application Status

View your application status at any time to ensure your application checklist is complete or to check on updates.

Once your complete application, including supporting materials, is received, the department admission committee will review your application and notify you of their decision.

For International Applicants

Proof of English language proficiency is required for applicants from countries or United States territories where there are official languages other than (or in addition to) English. This includes the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico.

Learn more about English language proficiency requirements.


We love learning about your goals and answering any questions to help you on your journey.

Tandi Hawkey
Systems Engineering, Ph.D.
Prospective Student Support Coach
Schedule Time to Talk

Program Details

$1,118 per credit
Degree Awarded
Doctor of Philosophy in Systems Engineering
Time Frame
Varies based on intensity of study and previous coursework

Application Deadlines

Fall semester
July 1
Spring semester
November 1

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